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March 9, 2013

Storm chasers welcome at Butler County’s next CERT class

Add Butler County Emergency Management director Jim Schmidt to the list of those who think it’s a great idea for storm chasers to have first responder training.

Add Butler County Emergency Management director Jim Schmidt to the list of those who think it’s a great idea for storm chasers to have first responder training.

A Community Emergency Response Teams class begins Monday in El Dorado, and Schmidt wants to invite all interested storm chasers in the Wichita area to attend. The class will be held each weeknight except Wednesday and then conclude with a half-day training exercise on Saturday.

The first four classes, which run from 6 to 10 p.m., will be held at the Butler Community College Emergency Service Training Center, 2610 W. 6th in El Dorado. The Saturday class, which is from 8 a.m. to noon, will be held just up the street at EMS Station 1, 701 N. Haverhill Road.

There is no fee for taking the class.

Schmidt said he agrees with veteran storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski, who urged a standing-room-only crowd of chasers at ChaserCon 2013 in Denver last month to learn basic first aid and carry supplies that can help victims of a tornado strike.

“A number of us in the business have said for a long time, ‘These guys are out there. Wouldn’t it be nice if they knew at least basic first aid?’ ” Schmidt said. “Often, they’re the first people there.”

When he watches cable television shows featuring storm chasers, Schmidt said, he sometimes sees them “doing things they shouldn’t be doing. They’re out there in flip-flops and shorts.

“You need to be trained. You need to know what you’re doing.”

Even if storm chasers are not interested in working closely with the wounded, Schmidt said, the class can be important so they will know how to respond to dangers at damage scenes, such as downed power lines or gas leaks.

“One of the things that scares me is a storm chaser showing up and inadvertently setting off a leaking gas line or stepping on a power line — things like that,” he said.

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